April 3rd……..”GRANDPA, DO YOU KNOW ANY CHURCH SONGS THAT HAVE TO DO WITH FARMING”?
A rich, cobalt-blue reflected off the glistening crowns, backs and wings of Barn Swallows. Their handsome, feathered frock of colors were ignited by a golden Minnesota morning sunlight that refracted through the barn windows of the Noorlun farm near Fosston, Minnesota. The deep fork in the tail of these cheery chirpers resembled the ancient harp-like instrument called a lyre. These little beauties of the bird world gave a happy greeting to our grandfather, from their mudded, cup-shaped nests in the rafters of our paternal patriarch’s barn. I can envision a quiet smile of acknowledgement on his face as Edwin glanced up while stepping across the large wooden threshold to begin his day of harvesting their grain field.
Not many folks today even know what a threshold is, but it was important and appreciated by Grandfather Edwin. For one, “thresh” is another name for the leftover straw material after the seeds of grain were removed from the stalks of the mother plants. Before the advent of concrete flooring, “thresh” was often used as animal bedding in barns and even in old-time log cabins to cover the dirt floors. The “hold”, in this case was either a log or a large beam across the ground-level entryway of the barn (or log cabin) that kept the “thresh” from being tracked outside of the structure; thus it became a “thresh-hold”, or, in another way of speaking………the “holder of the thresh”. The shear height of the “hold” at a doorway is why newlywed grooms would (and still do) often carry their new bride across the threshold so that she wouldn’t trip and fall over it while walking into the honeymoon home in the long, flowing wedding gown she wore.
The rippling and well-defined equine muscles of grandpa’s BIG draft horses, “Sugar” and “Cane”, quivered with happy anticipation to be part of another day on the farm there with Grandpa Ed. Our Norwegian elder was a first generation, born in America, man. The year of 1888 saw Edwin’s birth into this world and, like his father before him, he grew up in the era when horses were still the honored source of power in all agricultural vocations. Ed loved his horses and had followed in the footsteps of his father, Arne, before him as he, too, chose to be a farmer of the land and enjoyed seeing what it could produce. Matter of fact, our grandfather never used a tractor on his farm……only horses. With the new day before him, Edwin led his two, tall and mighty steeds from their barn stalls and mounted a full working harness on each of them for the day’s task of cutting and binding oats.
With his team harnessed and ready for work, Ed took up their reins, gave them a gentle ripple slap across their backs and made a “Chick, Cherup” sound with his mouth to move “Sugar” and “Cane”, at a walk, out to their oat field. Once on site, Grandpa Ed gave a long, steady pull on the reins while verbally commanding his team to “Back, Back” up as they obediently moved in reverse. Once in position, they were then hooked up to what’s known as a Grain Binder or Reaper. Ed climbed aboard the seat of this magic machine, engaged its gear system and with a slap of the reins “Sugar” and “Cane” pulled forward and began cutting a wide swath of oats as they moved along the field. The Binder would cut down and then move the long, cut grain stalks to the side of the machine and, every so often, a device would wrap a twine around a large bunch of the long grain and drop it to the ground. The bundle of tied, long grain was now called a sheaf. The plural form of that grain, now in many bundles on that field, were now called sheaves.
With the field of oats now cut and bound into sheaves, it was time for our grandfather, his sons and other workers to begin walking around the field grabbing and standing up the sheaves into vertical piles of three or more sheaves called a “stook”(also known as a “shock”). Pretty soon the oat field was dotted in picturesque teepees of stooks(or “shocks”). The reasoning for this practice was to allow the brisk prairie winds to dry the grain, rather than allowing the cut grain to lay on the ground where it was susceptible to moisture and rot from the morning dew, light showers, etc..
In a poetical agrarian parallel, what happened next on Grandpa Ed’s farm coincides with the Old Testament book of Psalms Chapter 126 and Verse 6 which, paraphrased, says, “He that goes forth…….bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, and bringing his sheaves with him.” For you see, once the sheaves were properly dried in their stooks (or “shocks”), it then became time to bring them into the barn from the field. Men began to fork the oat harvest onto a wagon and brought in all those sheaves of grain to have their seeds threshed from the plant stalks. Those separated grain kernels could now become feed for their farm animals and even be used by the family for various tasty foods like breakfast oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal bread, etc..
My grandfather, Edwin A. Noorlun, had faithfully planted those oat seeds in the spring of that year. But it was the good Lord above who warmed the soil with His sun, watered the seeds with His rain, and grew those seeds to uncountable thousands more than what Edwin planted. And, at the right time, the Lord Jesus brought a magnificent harvest to bless the Noorlun family, just as in the church song that’s called, “Bringing In The Sheaves”. We, as Christians, “plant the seeds” of the Gospel as we go out in the “field” of life each day. We “plant seeds” by showing the agape love of Jesus to everyone we come in contact with. Just as grandfather put hope in the Lord for his harvest of oats, we, as believers put our hope in the Lord to rejoice when He brings in a harvest of people who want to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Farming and Christianity go hand in hand for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.